Engineers are problem solvers. They apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems. Their work is the link between scientific discoveries and commercial applications. Engineers design materials, structures, machines, devices, systems, electronics, sensors, networks—and much more.
And as you can imagine, this is very lucrative. Businesses are willing to pay top dollar for individuals who can make their products and processes more efficient. Imagine how much money the bioengineers at Pfizer made for creating the COVID vaccine. That’s because, in doing so, they made Pfizer billions of dollars.
It’s all about the value you provide to businesses and other people. Engineers have a high-potential of providing lots of value. And that’s why they are paid so handsomely.
In order to become an engineer, you need to have a strong foundation in math and science. You must also be able to think analytically and solve complex problems. A four-year engineering degree is the best way to gain the skills and knowledge you need to be successful in this field.
In this article, we are going to see which engineering degrees will give you the highest return on investment (ROI). We’ll also provide guidance on how you can secure a lucrative career in engineering.
The Path to Becoming an Engineer
A degree in engineering is a wise investment. Not only will you be able to find a well-paying job, but you will also have the opportunity to work in many different industries. With an engineering degree, you can become a civil engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, computer engineer, or biomedical engineer—just to name a few.
The first step is to get a four-year degree in engineering from an accredited school. Once you have your degree, you will need to pass the Engineer in Training (EIT) exam. After passing the EIT exam, you will need to gain four years of professional experience before taking the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. Once you become a licensed professional engineer, you will need to complete continuing education credits to maintain your license.
While getting an engineering degree is a great way to start your career, it is not the only way. You can also become an engineer by completing a three-year apprenticeship program or by working in the military.
Editor’s note: Engineers thrive in the military. They are often put in charge of designing and constructing buildings, bridges, and roads. They also work on developing new technologies for the military. If you are interested in a career in engineering, you should definitely consider joining the military.
It’s assumed that not everyone can become an engineer. While we don’t necessarily subscribe to that belief, it is true that you need to develop a specific skill set to become a proficient engineer.
Now that you know what you need to become an engineer, let’s see the most lucrative career paths for you.
The 8 Highest Paying Engineering Careers
Engineering is a rewarding career path no matter what you choose. Even the lowest-paid engineering job, surveying and mapping technicians, earn a median salary of $46,910, which is way above the median salary of $35,977/year.
To make this list, we considered a few factors. We looked at the median salary for each job, as well as the expected job growth between 2020 and 2030. We also took into account how much education you need to get each job, although realistically you won’t need much more than a bachelor’s degree to get started in the field.
1. Petroleum Engineering
This might come off as a surprise, given the current state of the world. But the truth is, petroleum engineering is still one of the most lucrative careers out there. And it’s not expected to slow down anytime soon.
While we are trying to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, they are still the primary source of energy around the world. We use fossil fuels to do all sorts of things, from making plastics to running our cars. And if you expect us to phase out plastics, think again. All sorts of medical equipment and car-making needs plastics to be viable.
Here’s what your day-to-day job looks like:
You will be working with a team of engineers to develop new ways to extract oil and gas. This can involve anything from designing new drilling equipment to finding new deposits of fossil fuels. You’ll also perform maintenance on the oil rigs and wells.
The median salary for petroleum engineers is $130,850/year. And the job growth is expected to be about 8% between 2020 and 2030, which is average.
To become a petroleum engineer, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The best one, obviously, would be a degree in petroleum engineering. But a degree in a related field, such as mechanical engineering, can also suffice.
Warning: Keep in mind that most petroleum engineers work in remote locations, such as oil rigs. So if you’re not the type of person who likes being away from civilization for long periods of time, this might not be the right career for you.
2. Computer Hardware Engineering
The next highest-paying engineering job on our list is computer hardware engineering. And it’s no surprise, given the current state of the world. We are more dependent on computers than ever before.
As a computer hardware engineer, you will be responsible for developing, designing, and testing computer components, such as processors, circuit boards, and memory devices. You’ll also be responsible for maintaining and repairing computer equipment.
Editor’s note: Don’t confuse this job with IT technicians. They are responsible for fixing computer problems, but they don’t design or develop new hardware.
Degree-wise, the best one to get into the field would be a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, or a related field like computer and information technology. You’ll also be expected to have some knowledge of computer programming, because you need to understand how things like firmware work to get the devices you create working.
The median salary for computer hardware engineers is $128,170/year. But, unfortunately, the job growth is expected to only be about 2% between 2020 and 2030, which is very low. The reason is that many of the tasks performed by computer hardware engineers are being automated.
So, if you’re looking for a stable career with a high salary, this might not be the right one for you. But if you’re comfortable with taking risks and are always on the cutting edge of technology, then this is the perfect career for you.
This job requires you to have a lot of knowledge about computers. So if you’re not interested in learning about computer hardware, this might not be the right career for you.
Also Read: 20 Best STEM Colleges (2023 Updated)
3. Aerospace Engineer
Aerospace engineers work on everything related to aircrafts. Designing planes, missiles, and defense systems are some of the things they do. They also develop new technologies for the aerospace industry, such as GPS and satellite systems. You’ll also design and inspect new products in the space, and create standards of operations.
There are plenty of bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering available around, so you’ll have no trouble finding one. It’d be best to pick a school that has partnerships with local businesses, so you can get some hands-on experience.
An alternative option would be to get into the military. If military aircrafts interest you, then this is the perfect way to get experience in the aerospace engineering field. The Air Force and Navy have programs that will pay for your schooling in exchange for a few years of service.
The median salary for aerospace engineers is $122,270/year, with job growth expected to be about 8% between 2020 and 2030, which is average.
This career path is perfect for you if you’re interested in both aviation and engineering. And it’s not as risky as some of the other careers on this list, so you can expect a bit more stability.
4. Nuclear Engineer
Nuclear engineers are responsible for the development, operation, and maintenance of nuclear reactors. They also develop new technologies to improve the safety and efficiency of these reactors. And they work with radioactive materials, so you need to be comfortable with that.
Nuclear power will be a big part of the future, so this is a great career to get into if you’re interested in energy. And it’s not just about nuclear power plants. Nuclear engineers also work in the nuclear waste disposal field.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering to get your foot in the door. However, for most jobs, expect to be in need of a master’s degree, or even a Ph.D.
The median salary for nuclear engineers is $120,380/year. The job growth isn’t happening unfortunately. In fact, it’s expected to shrink by 8% by the end of 2030. This is because the nuclear industry isn’t growing as rapidly as it once was, and many people are afraid of nuclear power, which pressures politicians to not expand on nuclear energy production.
This is a great career if you’re interested in energy and want to work with cutting-edge technology. But it’s not for everyone, especially if you’re looking for job security.
5. Chemical Engineers
Chemical engineers are responsible for the design and operation of chemical plants. They also develop new products and processes, such as pharmaceuticals, biochemicals, and nanomaterials.
Chemical engineers often work with harmful chemicals and hazardous materials, which, combined with their extensive theoretical knowledge, contributes to their high salary.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering to get started in this field. But just like with nuclear engineering, you’ll likely need a higher degree for most positions.
The median salary for chemical engineers is $105,550/year. The job growth is expected to be 9% by 2030, which is slightly above average.
This is a great career for you if you’re interested in chemistry and want to work with cutting-edge products and processes. But it’s not for everyone, because there are inherent risks in working with chemical stuff. You must be careful at all times.
6. Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Electrical and electronic engineers design, develop, and oversee the production of electrical equipment. This includes everything from domestic appliances to medical devices to communications systems.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in electrical or electronics engineering to get started in this field. Of course, master’s degrees and Phds. are very welcome by employers, since this is a highly-technical job.
The median salary for electrical and electronic engineers is $101,780/year. The job growth is expected to be of about 7% between 2020 and 2030, which is a little below average.
However, we’re not all that convinced by this. Due to the current world’s situation, electricity is becoming more and more essential, and we believe that electrical and electronic engineers will be in higher demand in the future. They are the ones keeping our lights on, after all.
Aside from the high salary, this career path is interesting because you’ll have a chance to shape up mankind’s future. Naturally, this comes at a cost. It’s a very complex topic that requires lots of hard work to master.
These are the 6 highest-paying engineering degrees. If you get a bachelor’s degree—or even better, a master’s degree—in any of these fields, you’ll be set for life. Just remember that nothing comes easy, and you’ll have to put in the work if you want to reap the rewards.
7. Health and Safety Engineers
Health and safety engineers develop systems and procedures to protect people from workplace hazards. They also work with other engineers to design safer equipment and work environments. Basically, they make sure that our workplaces and homes are as safe as possible.
There is no specific degree for this field. You can get a degree in a related field, such as mechanical, industrial, or systems engineering. However, you should also take courses that are in this field, like occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics.
The median salary for health and safety engineers is $99,040/year. The job growth is expected to be about 6%, which is as fast as average.
This is a great career if you want to make a difference in the world and help make our workplaces and homes safer. You’ll need to be very detail-oriented and have a strong understanding of engineering principles.
8. Materials Engineers
Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials to create new products or improve existing ones. They work with metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, nanomaterials, and biomaterials. You will deal with materials at the atomic level. Things like how different materials behave when rubbed against one another and how they interact with other materials.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering to get started in this field. You may also need a graduate degree, depending on the position you’re applying for.
The median salary for materials engineers is $98,300/year. The job growth is expected to be about 8% between 2020 and 2030, which is average.
People who work in this field usually have a strong interest in chemistry and physics. If you want to be a materials engineer, you should be prepared to do a lot of math and have excellent problem-solving skills. Great physics knowledge is also a must.
Extra Skills Necessary for Engineers, and How to Get Them
Of course, there is more to becoming an engineer than just getting a degree. You also need to have the right skills and personality traits. Let’s see them.
- Analytical skills: Engineers need to be able to understand complex problems and find innovative solutions. For example, when designing a new product, they need to be able to identify the problem that the product is supposed to solve.
- Communication skills: Engineers must be able to communicate their ideas clearly, both in writing and verbally. They also need to be able to work in teams. Writing is a big part of this, because you’ll have to put on paper your designs, analysis, and proposals.
- Proactive attitude: This is perhaps the most important trait of a successful engineer. You need to be proactive and take initiative. You’re at the forefront of innovation, and innovation can’t exist without proactivity.
- Creativity: Engineers need to be creative in order to come up with new designs and ideas. Your entire job is innovating, and you can’t innovate without creativity.
All of the above skills are geared towards one thing: helping you succeed in your career. And that’s why engineers are so well-paid. They provide a lot of value to businesses and other people.
Engineering is a lucrative field. Naturally, don’t expect to get a starting salary like the median, unless you have lots of education under your belt. Still, with the right skills and attitude, you can achieve great things in this field.
Don’t forget that a career in engineering requires continuous learning. The field is always evolving, and you need to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements. But if you’re passionate about engineering, this shouldn’t be a problem. It’s actually one of the things that makes this job so interesting. There’s always something new to learn.
So, if you’re thinking about a career in engineering, go for it! It’s a great decision that you won’t regret. Just make sure you have the right skills and attitude, and you’ll be on your way to success. Also, pick an engineering school that has a good reputation. That will give you a head start in your career.
And lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Engineering is a great field, and you should enjoy every minute of it.
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